The scene will be familiar to most of us in North Carolina: A small Southern town where people are accustomed to knowing their neighbors. The kind of place where spaghetti is about as foreign a food as you’ll find on any restaurant menu. And then, everything changes. A crowd of immigrants moves to town to work in the local poultry plant. The immigrants speak different languages, dress differently and keep to themselves. The locals, feeling threatened, start to talk about the newcomers. They are aggressive and mean, they say. They smell bad. They crowd the schools. They bring down property values. Some of the allegations are even published in the local newspaper.
This is the setting of “Welcome to Shelbyville,” a new documentary that Uniting NC — along with our partners, the Levine Museum of the New South and USCRI North Carolina — will begin screening in North Carolina next week. (Go to the end of this post for details on how you can attend one of two free screenings in Charlotte and Cary.) The film is about Shelbyville, Tennessee, but it tackles an issue that has affected towns across the South. It is an honest portrait of the fear and divisions that waves of immigration have caused.
The story, however, does not stop there. Many of us just sigh and shake our heads at the way we don’t know our neighbors anymore. Many of us have become resigned to animosity and fear of the stranger. But in Shelbyville, people came together to change that climate. They held community meetings and potluck dinners. They talked to each other and asked honest questions. They looked past their differences and saw that they were all human, all people who wanted a good life for their families, all people who, in their own way, shared the American dream. Shelbyville is the model for the kind of work that Uniting NC wants to do, and for the way that all of us in North Carolina can get involved.
We hope you will join us for one of these two free screenings:
Levine Museum of the New South, Charlotte
Thursday, Oct. 21
Click for details
Galaxy Cinema, Cary
Wednesday, October 27
Click for details and to RSVP
Welcome to Shelbyville is produced and directed by Kim A. Snyder. Executive produced by the BeCause Foundation in Association with Active Voice.